Untreated tooth decay is a problem for more than 2.4 billion people worldwide, with some 190 million new cases forecasted each year, finds a new study in the Journal of Dental Research.
Experts say this is a worryingly large number for a problem that is both well known and highly preventable.
“It is alarming to see prevention and treatment of tooth decay has been neglected at this level,” says the study's lead researcher, Dr. Wagner Marcenes.
Scientists conducted a global survey of 378 studies looking at nearly 5 million people from 1990 to 2010. The results showed that 2.4 billion people suffer from untreated tooth decay in their permanent teeth, with 621 million children facing untreated decay in their early, temporary teeth.
Untreated tooth decay can engender cavities, infections, abscesses, oral pain and diseases. Ignored, it can impede a child's growth and cause work absenteeism and unproductivity in adults. Dental decay is an effect of mouth acids dissolving the exterior teeth layers.
Scientists impute dental decay to high consumption of sugar, cautioning the public that children are not the only offenders.
"What is clear is that this is a major public health problem," added global oral-health expert Professor David Williams of the Queen Mary University of London.